Listen: Gary Barkalow shares tips with Dwayne Jeffries on how to figure out your life’s “calling”.
Ever met someone who’s ignited with passion for life, and ploughs through obstacles with ease? Ever wondered why you don’t feel the same way?
Those carefree folks are probably walking in their calling, confident of what God has designed them to do.
If you’re not one of those self-assured fulfilled people, and you struggle with questions like “What is God’s plan for my life?”, then it’s worth listening to Gary Barkalow.
He’s the author of It’s Your Call and the founder of Noble Heart Ministries, and he’s spent decades helping people find out what God has shaped them for.
Gary believes finding your calling is the key to living a satisfied, fulfilled life.
He also believes that it isn’t all that complicated to find your calling—and surprisingly, it’s not about your job, career or ministry!
What Is A “Calling”?
Gary dropped in to chat to Hope Media’s Dwayne Jeffries while he was in Australia on his speaking tour. During his chat, he said there’s a difference between a job, a career and a calling—and it’s important not to get them confused.
“A person’s calling is the effect of their life,” he said. “God has given everyone a certain effect that they bring to this world, that’s needed. A career is simply something that we take on to help us provide for our family, for ourselves.
“If those two things can come together closely, that’s really good—where the effect of our life is needed in this place that we call a “job” that provides the finances we need.
“But they really are separate.”
Your Calling Is Not Your Career
While some people are lucky enough to work in their life’s calling and gifts at work, it doesn’t always happen—and that’s ok.
Gary believes it’s a mistake to try and figure out your life’s calling in the context of just a job or career.
“Often when people put those two things together [calling and career], they’re trying to “monetise” the effect of their life,” he said. “And sometimes that’s really not helpful to discern what our calling really is.
“If a person is to live out their calling in their job, they’ll get very frustrated. Because our life, which is our calling, is far bigger than any one job. And jobs change.
“Our calling isn’t limited to the eight hour day. It’s your entire life, 24/7. And so we have to see our calling as something bigger than our job.”
Your Calling Is Not Your Skillset
There is also a difference between “calling” and “competency”.
Just because you have learnt how to type a letter, sew a dress, teach Bible stories to children, clean bathrooms, row a boat, fix an engine, milk a cow, or prune a rose bush, it doesn’t mean those things are your life’s calling.
“We’re all competent people, we can all learn things, pick up skills and understandings,” Gary said. “And so, as we do that, we can confuse who we are and what we uniquely bring to this world, with something that we’ve simply acquired over time.”
You may be able to do many tasks, but if you quickly get bored of doing them, or perhaps even resent them, then these are not our callings.
Your Calling Is Not A Job – Or A Spiritual Gift
Life’s callings cannot be summed up in a job title like “teacher”, “mechanic”, or “writer”, Gary says. Trying to do so can just lead to frustration.
“if I have a certain type of job right now – let’s just say it’s called “teacher” – and I lose that job, well if I think that’s my calling, I’m going to look for another job or position or place that has the same label, and I might not be able to find it.
“But if I realise that my calling is the effect I bring, and that the reason I love teaching is that I love to bring clarity to something that’s confusing, then I can do that anywhere with any title, even if it’s not called “teacher”.”
In fact Gary is so determined not to box people, that he doesn’t teach on the topic of spiritual gifts either.
“We all want a label,” he said. “So if you give me a label and I like it, I’ll attach it to myself, and I don’t think about it any further any more.”
Rather, it’s better to look at much broader categories of gifting, to understand what your calling is.
King, Priest Or Prophet: Which One Are You?
So, keeping in mind that your calling is your effect on the world around you, what are some of the different types of calling?
Well, Gary helps people identify their calling by summing up the “effects” people have on the world into three broad categories: The “king”, the “priest“ and the “prophet”.
“When you look at the life of Jesus it says that he was prophet, priest and king,” Gary explained. “He had a prophetic side to his life, he had a priestly side, and he had a kingly side. So if we want to look for a category, we might look at that, since we are being conformed to his image.
“You really can put people’s effects into those three categories, generally.”
Kings: The Leaders, Visionaries, Movers And Shakers
People who have a “kingly” calling, or effect on the world, tend to find themselves wanting to make a difference and improve organisations wherever they go.
“Kingly people look at a situation and think “I know how this would work better”,” Gary said. “They know what needs to be put in place so that everybody can bring their gifting and who they are to a job, organisation or place, and make it work better.
“That’s very kingly.”
Priests: The Carers, Helpers, Nurturers And Listeners
Those with priestly gifts and callings are most concerned about how people are doing.
“Priestly people are always thinking, “How are people doing? Are they working well together? How is that individual doing? How can I create an environment so their heart, their very personality, works here?”,” Gary explained.
“That’s a priestly kind of an effect.”
Prophets: The Writers, Activists, Artists And Speakers
The third broad area of calling, the “prophetic” calling, is made of people who tend to evaluate situations and point out how society needs to change.
“People with a prophetic calling tend to be those who can almost step outside of the culture, whether it’s the culture in their country, or in their work, and they can see what is wrong with the culture that no-one else can see because they live in it,” Gary said.
“And they can call it out, and say, “do you realise that (for instance) there is a culture of fear here, and no-one’s able to really offer who they are?”.
“They have the courage to see it and call it out. That’s very prophetic, in a way.”
How Do I Figure Out My Calling?
Step 1 – Look ToThe Desires In Your Heart
The passions and desires we carry around in our hearts are linked closely to our calling, says Gary.
“Who we are, what we’re created to do, is written in our heart in the form of our desires,” he said. “So the really good news is that what we are supposed to do, is what we most want to do.
“What is it that makes you come alive? What are you compelled to do in almost any situation? You really have to look there, because that’s how God starts to write that into our life.”
A word of warning: Be careful not to confuse desires with unhealthy motivations.
For example, if you desire to always be noticed and promoted – because you were ignored as a child and are still angry about it – this is not a God-given desire, but rather an area of hurt that needs to be worked through.
Step 2 – What Do Other People Think?
Our calling may be obvious to the people around us, so it’s worth asking others what they see in us.
“What we bring to this world, may be our “ordinary”,” Gary said.
“We may think “because we can do it, everybody can do it”, or “because we see this way, everybody sees this way”, and so on.
“It really takes the eyes of others to say, “I didn’t see what you just saw, I didn’t hear what you just noticed, I can’t do what you do”. And it’s through the observations of others that we think, “maybe that is unique”.
Step 3 – Your Calling Is Always “Switched On”
If there is a tendency in your personality that is always “Switched on” and that comes easily, that’s probably your calling. Because calling, according to Gary, is “something you have to turn off, not on”.
“The skills that we pick up, like how to engage a person in conversation, or how to engage a room, or how to manage something, are things that you have to “turn on” at certain times.
“But your calling, who you are, or your effect—is always on. And what you have to learn with your calling, is when not to bring it on, and when to say “no, that’s not what this moment is about, I shouldn’t say anything at this point”.
A Final Tip: Don’t Be Impatient
If you find you have to knock all kinds of doors down to step into what you believe God wants you to do, you may be taking the wrong approach.
Look carefully at your motivations so you can be sure you’re not just being impatient.
“We can be aggressive, striving to make something happen, that God may not be up to,” Gary said. “If I try to make things happen all the time, it may not be the prompting of God.”
Equally, we may miss out on doing something God has called us to do, because of fear.
“There are people that say “well I’m just waiting on God to tell me if I should do this now”, said Gary. “And really what they’re doing is living in procrastination.”
“You really have to go to your heart and see what’s going on there, and ask God, “help expose the motives of my heart.”
Hear Gary Barkalow Speak
Gary Barkalow (above) will speak on how to find your calling at a “Calling Intensive” presented by Ellel Ministries at Menangle – from 7pm on Friday, October 30 until 3.30pm on Sunday, November 1.
For more on Gary’s teaching see his website, Noble Heart.